More old ammo to ID - 38 Super this time - (pic) -


#1

Y’all did such a good job IDing the Winchester 9mm smg ammo I’d like to request the same type info about this one. Thanks!


#2

I cannot tell you for sure who this ammunition was made for, or even exactly when. However, I have the same exact box, except lot 5001, and my box was given to me with one round by a friend in the F.B.I. They had some .38 Super pistols acquired in the late 1920s or 1930s. He did not think that the ammo in question was originally a contract specifically for the Bureau, however, but wasn’t sure. He knew it WAS acquired through Government channels, and had been in the arms storage for a lot of years…

My round with the box has a plain brass case (not nickeled), a flat nickeled primer cup with no seal, a GM-FMJ RN bullet, and the headstamp “REM-UMC 38 ACP”.

I think these boxes date from the WWII era, but could be wrong. The headstamp is correct for that era, as are the cartridge specifications. I have the Remington-Peters Specifications Sheet for this cartridge, dated 12/1/43. It shows the same headstamp as the round with my box. It does not mention nickel-plating of the case. During the war, the nickel-plating customary to .38 Super loads (they were nickeled-case and the lower velocity .38 ACP loads for the early 1900-1903 Colt series of pistols were plain brass) was eliminated to conserve a strategic material. The added warning on the box about using only in colt 38 Super pistols designed for the high velocity (the M1911 type) would go along the lack of plating. The specifications sheet does show that the primer cup is nickel-plated, so the lack of such a notation for the case is neither an accident nor simply something they didn’t bother to note.

The specs sheet shows the weight of each component except, for some reason, the primer cup. It does show the weight of the priming compound. These add up to 197.95 grains. My round weighs 198.2 grains, so I assume it is the same powder charge even as the 1943 specs sheet. Even if we disclaimed +/- to the specs, the slightly heavier weight of my round could be the primer cup itself. Just allowable variances would account for it as well,however. at only 7/10 of a grain difference.

I suspect that these rounds were made for any government purpose that involved .38 Super pistols - Industry Defense Plant guards, FBI or any other Federal agency that had some, and if any quantity were sent abroad, such as to England after Dunkirk, when they pleaded to all allies for small arms of any description in anticipation of German invasion.

I have a similar box from Winchester for .32 Auto ammunition, but it has the DA contract number on the box, and was packed 2/54 according to the box. Kind of an odd time for the Army to be ordering .32 auto ammunition, right after the Korean War was over. Maybe it was for Criminal Investigators or General Officers, about the only Army personnel who used any Colt .32 auto pistols, I think.

I like these white contract boxes. They are interesting to research. Sometimes you wonder why the ammo was procured at all, in some instances. Of course, there was a reason.


#3

Frankly, I was not terribly satisfied with my first answer, as it was all off-the-cuff. I decided to research this a little more this evening. HWS Volume II, page 229, indicates that these cartridges were made for General Officers who used pistols of this caliber. I am not qualified to argue any point of U.S. Military ammunition with these authors, although I am not acquainted with any Colt .38 Super pistols being issued to General Officers - only Colt .32 and .380 autos as well as the standard M1911 and M1911A1 .45 pistols. Certainly General-grade officers could carry personal pistols - we know that from General Patton. It is also possible that they were allowed to procure a pistol of their choice. However, I find it difficult to accept that all of this ammo was for that purpose.

HWS attribute the ammunition to 1945 production, which I am sure is correct. They mention lots 5000 and 5001 as being encountered. However, another book, referenced below, says that only lots 5001 and 5002 have been seen.

As I guessed, a small lot of these pistols went to the British Purchasing Commission in July of 1940. If the ammunition in question was made in 1945, as is reported, it was not likely made for England. Some were also shipped to the Siamese Navy, but that was in the 1930s, and again, the box in question obviously has no connection to that.

The likely initial use for the ammunition, considering its date of production, was for the 400 pistols acquired by the United States Government, and marked with the U.S. Military Inspector’s initials G.H.D. (Guy H. Drewry). These 400 pistols were contracted for in April 1945, to be delivered in May.
A group of 24 of these pistols were assembled June 18, 2005, and sent to Remington Arms Company, probably for ammunition testing. Twenty of these pistols were later shipped from Remington to the Pentagon. The second shipment of 376 pistols were shipped from Colt July 20, 1945. They were shipped to the Fowler Building, in Rosslyn, Virginia, documented as having been a warehouse for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during WWII. The ammunition in question was probably made specifically for this shipment, although we do not know that. The timing is correct, however.
Further, it is not surprising that some ended up at the Quantico, Virginia facility of the FBI, since they had some .38 Supers as well.

Again, whether any of it was actually for General Officer use, I simply don’t know beyond my source material as quoted.

This is a big simplification of the story. I must refer anyone who wants to pursue more information to the references used and summarized here:

Reference: HWS, Volume II, Page 229
Reference: Colt’s Super .38, The Production History - From 1929 through 1971, by douglas sheldon, Pages 85 thru 112

Edited solely to correct spelling of one word


#4

John, thanks for your excellent replies. I find the northern Virginia connection interesting, as that is where I found this box of ammo at a gun store. I suspect that someone brought in their guns to sell, and this ammo with it. Thanks again…